First-Year Seminars are a critical part of the Common Course of Study, a co-requisite for other courses taken by students in their first semester, and a prerequisite for subsequent courses.

First Year Seminars are limited to around 16 students per section, the First-Year Seminar includes significant reading, writing, discussion, and presentation and is affiliated with the College Writing Program. Students in First-Year Seminars are introduced to the use of the library for research.

Students should select their top 5 First-Year Seminar courses in order of preference.

Students should understand that in case of a schedule conflict between a First-Year Seminar and a required major degree course, the major course will take precedence, and an alternate seminar option will be assigned.


Please review the descriptions below.


Students enrolled in FYS 077, FYS 141, FYS 148, & 169  will be part of the housing program which brings students from First Year Seminars together in a residential setting. This exciting housing configuration will allow the FYS faculty to utilize residential spaces for academic purposes and will encourage collaboration between students outside the traditional classroom environment.


FYS-012. Reading Photographs

From your social media feeds to advertising to iconic photographs, “Reading Photographs” will teach you visual literacy. While there have been major technological shifts in how photographs are made, photographs have never lost their importance as arguably the most used form of visual communication in society. This class considers the photographic canon and also what has been left out of that canon. Analytic essays, screenings, field trips, and photographic workshops will give you the practice to examine photographs from multiple vantage points. “Reading photographs” will expose you to the subjective, historical, and theoretical implications of how photographs affect our lives. – Professor Skvirsky

FYS-015. The Endurance of Race

This seminar explores how race and ethnicity is mediated through film and media by analyzing the tangle between the construction of race and visual technology. Beginning with early image-making and the birth of cinema, we will examine how ways of seeing, the rise of mass media in modern consumer society, and the relationship between visual culture and power are deeply intertwined to influence and perpetuate racialized difference. We will study a range of media such as early ethnographic films, Hollywood cinema and look at how counter cinema and global activism have helped to draw attention to these images in important ways. – Professor Sikand

FYS-018. Ways to Know Nature

This class is a study of the different ways we interact with and thus know the natural environment. These ways include, among others, the scientific, technological, artistic, experience-based (hands-on), biographical, and religious; the forms of interaction follow from our lives as consumers, as eaters, and as thinkers, while we work, live, and play. The purpose of the course is to examine how those ways of interaction with nature influence how we know and then treat those environments. –Professor Cohen

FYS-028. Money: The Root of All Evil?

While the most recent financial crisis has heightened awareness of what can happen when the financial systems runs amok, this crisis was just one of several that plagued the markets at various times within the last two centuries. This course focuses on the financial history of currency and the capital markets through a critical examination of their functioning and impact from their beginnings to the present day. – Professor Bukics

FYS-035. Technology and Society: Semiconductor Era

This seminar explores sources and uses of energy in a technical society. Issues regarding fossil fuels, nuclear energy, solar energy, and alternative sources of energy are investigated. Conservation of energy and the storage of energy are discussed. Energy uses for plant and food production, transportation, industrial output, leisure activities, and the national defense are reviewed. Finally, the use of energy is examined in the context of atmospheric pollution, radiation, noise, and nuclear weapons. – Professor Nestor

 FYS-036. Trials of the Century

This interdisciplinary seminar will examine the “Trials of the Century” that have captivated the general public’s attention because of the highly controversial issues they raised, the publicity they received, and the decisions that resulted. By examining these great trials, using political, historical and legal academic lenses, we will refine our critical analytical skills and better understand both our legal and political systems, and the resulting changes in law and society. – Professor Murphy 

FYS-041. Crazy in Love: Romantic Love in the Western World 

This seminar explores how even the most intimate and seemingly personal forms of experience are shaped by culture and history. We’ll consider how our ideas about love have evolved over time, from the development of medieval chivalry to the rise of modern psychiatry. Along the way, we’ll assess how scientific accounts of love, as well as our most famous love-stories, mesh with the actual experience of it. – Professor Wadiak

FYS-043. Charisma

Charisma, meaning “gift of grace,” denotes a deeply personal, yet anti-institutional type of authority, shared by certain cult leaders and revolutionaries, religious visionaries and political prophets, antinomians and avant garde artists. There is also the charisma of place and thing, from sacred shrines and objects, to famous art works and national monuments. The course will explore the meaning of charisma, with case studies in enthusiastic religion, political revolution, and antinomian avant garde art movements. – Professor Schneiderman

FYS-049. Global Food

Foods are material substances that are deeply linked to human sustenance, to sociability, status and sensibility, as well as the sway of the senses-whether sparking desire or disgust. In this sense food intrinsically crosses borders and boundaries in at least two ways: first, food challenges us to adopt interdisciplinary approaches to material goods, considering them from different perspectives and adopting different lenses. Second, foods have always been mobile across the globe, shifting in form and meaning as they move between different settings; in this sense, by tracing the circulation of foods in time and space, we can explore a world of emergent sociocultural relations, seeing links between spheres of production, transport and consumption. – Professor Bissell

FYS-056. The Worlds in Cookbooks: A Socio-Cultural Approach

Cookbooks are much more than simple collections of recipes. When approached critically, they allow us to analyze patterns of daily life, domestic ideals and practices, and power relations in the societies in which they were produced and consumed. In this seminar we will answer the following questions: 1) What is a cookbook? 2) What can cookbooks tell us (and not tell us) about the societies in which they circulated? 3) What subjects can cookbooks encourage us to(re)consider? In examining these questions, we will explore topics including cookbooks as biographies and domestic advice, as well as genres of cookbooks including ethnic, commercial, and community cookbooks. – Professor Pite

FYS-064. Global Justice (2 Sections) 

While few people would deny that we have special, and sometimes quite demanding, obligations to help our friends, family, or even our fellow citizens, it is controversial whether we have these same kinds of obligations to complete strangers. The guiding question of this course will be What, if anything, do we owe such people? Three main topics will provide the focus of discussion: international economic inequality, climate change, and war. – Professor Jezzi

FYS-065. The Uses and Abuses of Science in Science Fiction

In their novels, science fiction writers incorporate many ideas from cutting-edge science, some imaginative and insightful, others blatantly at odds with established scientific principles. Students will critically examine applications of science in the novels of Robert L. Forward and Arthur C. Clarke, among others. Readings from the novels will be interspersed with readings from books such as The Physics of Star Trek, by Lawrence Krauss, which explain the relevant science in terms accessible to non-scientists. – Professor Hoffman

FYS-077. The Dog Course (2 Sections)


Students enrolled in FYS 077, FYS 141, FYS 148, & 169  will be part of the housing program which brings students from First Year Seminars together in a residential setting. This exciting housing configuration will allow the FYS faculty to utilize residential spaces for academic purposes and will encourage collaboration between students outside the traditional classroom environment.

“Man’s best friend?” Nature’s most successful parasite?  Employing a range of perspectives–literary, philosophical, archaeological, biological and technological–we will examine specific constructions of the dog at various moments in human history.  We will consider issues of evolution, domestication, the morality and technology of breeding, and the psychological comforts of anthropomorphic representation.  Because field trips and other required activities will involve contact with dogs, this course is not recommended for those who may be afraid of dogs or have health issues that could be made worse by interacting with dogs. – Professor Falbo

FYS-080. Creature:  Animals in Contemporary Culture

Why are animals and “animality” becoming more frequent themes in recent literature, performance, and visual art? How is this trend to be understood in relation to global climate change, habitat loss, extinction, ecological ethics, and “pet” economies in contemporary culture? This course begins with a broad introduction to the ways animals have been theorized within our own (Western) intellectual tradition, engages major critical questions within animal philosophy in recent decades, and then applies these rubrics to contemporary texts, performances, and artworks that ask us to think about animals in provocative ways. – Professor Rohman

FYS-086.  Propaganda

What is propaganda? What are some of the most common propaganda techniques? How, if at all, does propaganda differ from other forms of persuasion? Is the use of propaganda to influence opinion always ethically suspect? How is it suspect? Is it possible that propaganda could be used to communicate accurate information, or must propaganda always be misleading? This First Year Seminar examines these and related questions from an historical, sociological, psychological and philosophical perspective. – Professor Shieber

FYS 105. Spectacles of Revenge

The popular phrase, “revenge is a dish best served cold,” suggests that revenge is more satisfying when rationally performed rather than irrationally executed. The texts studied in this course either support or challenge this characterization while exploring issues of definition, motive, consequence, justice, and forgiveness. Our purpose is to complicate and enlarge our understanding of “revenge” by studying it from literary, ethical, religious, and psychoanalytical perspectives. – Professor Donahue

FYS 109. Understanding Design 

This seminar requires students to develop their observational skills in order to study and evaluate the design of a range of product types. Through observational drawing, journaling, readings, discussion, and focused writing, students will explore and reflect on the elements of good design. – Professor Roth

FYS 114. The Values of Cinema

Learn how to look at works of cinematic art in an informed and reflective way. We will emphasize the importance, to properly understanding and evaluating a movie, of considering all of its cinematic features, including genre, relationship to other works, screenplay, camera work, music, etc., and of becoming informed on whatever is relevant to the content conveyed-all features that a casual viewer might miss. The seminar includes film screenings outside of regular class time. – Professor Giovannelli

FYS-117. Demonstrating Science

Scientific demonstrations are used in lectures, science museums, and television shows to explain scientific principles and inspire wonder about science. How important are such demonstrations to a true understanding of science? Is seeing believing? Is seeing understanding? In this seminar we will explore the science behind some popular demonstrations and consider the ways in which such demonstrations have educated, obfuscated, or inspired their audiences.- Professor Boekelheide

FYS-122. Psychology and the Media

The media has powerful effects on our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. In turn, psychology can help us understand how we consume and relate to the media. This seminar will introduce students to the wide variety of ways in which media and psychology interact. Selected topics include advertising and persuasion, self-help forums and mobile health, news coverage of psychology-related stories, media depictions of violence, and how psychopathology is (mis)portrayed in various media outlets. – Professor Wenze

FYS-125. Love and War in Indian Thought 

This course focuses on a close reading of one of the classic texts of the Indian tradition, the Bhagavad-gītā, placing it within its contemporary context (that of India, ca., 200 C.E), but also attending to its effects on modern thought. Along with the original text, this course draws on a wealth of Indian and non-Indian materials—from artistic representations to elements of popular culture—in exploring the Gītāin terms of both text and context. – Professor Tull

FYS-131. Order and Justice in the World Community

This seminar takes a comparative approach to explore how different societies deal with internal conflicts resulting from religious, linguistic, racial, or other divisions. By identifying several prominent conflicts and analyzing ways to solve them-through power sharing (e.g. Belgium), federalism (e.g. Canada), minority recognition (e.g. Spain), etc.-we explore the goals of solutions, particularly in terms of justice and order. – Professor Peleg

FYS-132. Pursuits of Happiness

What is happiness? How should we pursue it? Are we misguided in our expectations of happiness?   Conversations about happiness extend beyond the fields of philosophy and religion, as psychologists, economists, and neuroscientists grapple with defining and measuring this often elusive state of being.  We will enter this age-old conversation and examine happiness from a multidisciplinary perspective.  Throughout the course, we will engage with a wide range of texts, exploring both the internal and external conditions that may shape happiness for the individual and society. – Professor Paddock

FYS-136. Learning Science 

Learning is central to our lives as students, professors, and citizens. This seminar will focus on the science of learning and how it is applied by individuals and institutions. Sources drawn from psychology, sociology, and other social sciences will inform our discussion of how you can improve your own academic performance and how institutions of higher education can support those goals. – Professor Talarico 

FYS-141. The Mathematics of Social Justice (2 Sections)


Students enrolled in FYS 077, FYS 141, FYS 148, & 169  will be part of the housing program which brings students from First Year Seminars together in a residential setting. This exciting housing configuration will allow the FYS faculty to utilize residential spaces for academic purposes and will encourage collaboration between students outside the traditional classroom environment.

Alexander Hamilton said, “The first duty of society is justice.” Today there is vociferous argument about the prevalence of justice. To what degree is our society just? Are there practical ways to make it more just? This course applies basic mathematics to controversial issues like elections and income distribution in an attempt to look at them objectively. Using mathematics that everybody is taught, we’ll try to make sense out of conflicting opinions on these issues, so discovering the practical importance of a solid foundation in mathematics for everyone. – Professor Root   

FYS-148. Melding Mind and Machine 


Students enrolled in FYS 077, FYS 141, FYS 148, & 169  will be part of the housing program which brings students from First Year Seminars together in a residential setting. This exciting housing configuration will allow the FYS faculty to utilize residential spaces for academic purposes and will encourage collaboration between students outside the traditional classroom environment.

From gaming to restoring motor activity, Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) has provided humankind with an alternate means to control an external device. Invasive and Non-Invasive BCI devices use detected brain activity to control assistive devices, such as a robotic arm, wheelchair, or game controller. In this seminar we will explore the ethical considerations surrounding the research and development of BCI technology as we continue to blur the lines between human and machine. – Professor Gabel

FYS-150. A Plastic World

Plastic: Greatest technological advance of the 20th century or ecological scourge? Plastics, or polymers, are so pervasive in our everyday lives that their use and disposal often are taken for granted. As a result, their environmental impact is scrutinized heavily. In this course, we will discuss the science, history, pop culture, and social impact of this controversial material. Most importantly, we will think critically about the future of plastics in the context of environmental concerns. – Professor Van Horn

FYS-158. Nonviolence: Theory and Practice

This course explores both the theoretical development of nonviolence and the practice of nonviolence as a means for waging and resolving conflict. Using the examples of Mohandas Gandhi and India’s independence movement, the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe, the power of music in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, as well as the personal testimonies of individuals and various groups pursuing nonviolent change in the Lehigh Valley, this course explores the principles of nonviolence in action.– Professor Fabian

FYS-162. Music in European Civilization: Six Case Studies

The course does not assume knowledge of music on the students’ part; nor does it require that they master notation or become conversant with musical analysis.  Rather, the course examines developments in European history that have left their traces in the music. It relates music to developments in European culture and explains the distinctive characteristics of the music of a period in relation to those larger developments that underlie its cultural productivity. – Professor Cummings

FYS-169. The 1960s and Social Change

Students enrolled in FYS 077, FYS 141, FYS 148, & 169  will be part of the housing program which brings students from First Year Seminars together in a residential setting. This exciting housing configuration will allow the FYS faculty to utilize residential spaces for academic purposes and will encourage collaboration between students outside the traditional classroom environment.

The Civil Rights Movement, the Antiwar Movement, the Space Race, and, of course, Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll… Through an examination of written and oral histories, documentary film, and the poetry, music and visual arts of the Sixties, students will explore the underlying causes for change during one of the nation’s most tumultuous decades. In addition to the causes, students will determine for themselves the lasting influences that the 1960s have had on the present day. – Professor Newman     

FYS-179. Leveraging Social Entrepreneurship to Alleviate Poverty and Unfreedoms

Market-based social entrepreneurship as an approach to addressing poverty, unfreedoms and the lack of localized agency among the poor in economic development has seen a rise in prominence. This is often attributed to the failures of national governments, multi-lateral agencies, and conventional philanthropy to respond dynamically to the challenges posed by changing global and technology landscapes. These failures also reflect a reliance on an outmoded development paradigm that is both inattentive and unresponsive to the modern needs of income poor people to be primary owners of their development experiences, a possibility made more realistic because of globalization and technological change. In essence, as first noted by Adam Smith and reported in Amarta Sen, freedom of exchange and transaction is in itself part and parcel of the basic liberties that people have to celebrate, and as Sen himself points out, “the freedom to participate in economic interchange has a basic role in social living.”– Professor Hutchinson

FYS-188. Participation Economy

Public participation is celebrated everywhere, from large corporations to the IMF. New technologies have given everyday people a chance to share their opinions at formerly unheard-of scales. But some worry that all of this engagement isn’t really about empowerment. Looking to the past, how have activists influenced market activity? Why have corporations invested in populist mobilization? This FYS investigates the dynamic relationship between markets and movements over the last two centuries. – Professor Lee

FYS 189 Silk Roads and Sea Routes:  East-West Trade and Intercultural Exchange in Pre-Modern Times

From the 2nd c. BCE to the 15th c. CE, the Eurasian continent was profoundly transformed by the “Silk Roads,” a series of overland and maritime trade routes stretching between China and Rome. This course will explore not only the exotic goods that were traded, including silk, porcelain, gold, and even horses, but also the transmission of religious beliefs (Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity), artistic and musical practices, and technologies between peoples of vastly different cultures. –Professor Furniss

FYS-195. Russia Today (2 Sections)

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” is how Winston Churchill famously described Russia. Decades later, after the Cold War and amidst the resurgence of Russia’s influence on the world stage, this seminar asks the question: what is Russia today? Taking into account conservative and liberal movements, we will study mass media, contemporary literature and cinema, and activism under Putin with an eye to challenging our assumptions about Russian culture, politics, and history. – Professor Ceballos 

FYS-196. Exploring Chinese Culture 

Preference given to students who are non-native speakers of the Chinese Language. 

What does it mean to be Chinese? What are some central aspects of Chinese culture? How do the traditional values and beliefs continue to shape contemporary China? Through a combination of lectures, discussions, and cultural events, this seminar will introduce students to significant cultural achievements in China and the critical vocabulary that is essential to discuss and analyze Chinese culture and related issues. – Professor Luo